Congratulations, and welcome to Ashesi University. You are among a privileged few who have been chosen to join us in a quest to build a Great African University; an institution that we believe will change the course of higher education in Ghana. Being in the first class of students at an institution like this is an opportunity that does not come very often, and I salute you for being here today. Ayeekoo.
Ashesi University started as a dream - a dream that was born with my son. With parenthood came the realization that the best way to leave this planet a better place for my children is to do all that I can to help change the African condition. Education, it seems to me, is the best place to start.
I believe that Africa can change its economic fortunes, in much the same way that South-East Asia did at the end of the 20th century. But this goal cannot be achieved without a highly trained workforce, and ethical, entrepreneurial leadership that will drive the economic engine of Africa. This belief is the reason that I cut short my career at Microsoft Corporation to embark on this project, and it is the reason we are all here today.
Ashesi was once just a dream, but today, it is an institution. Our institution. Ashesi is being built by a community of people that spans five continents. Our team includes donors, business managers, professors and students from Ghana, the United States, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
It will take us many years to build up to our full strength. But in the meantime, the few of us charged with creating this institution must work hard to achieve success. Over the past three years, a very small founding team has persevered in the face of daunting challenges, and has accomplished what you see here today. No doubt, we will continue to face significant hurdles as we build Ashesi, but I am confident that we will confront these tests in the same way that we've done over the past three years: with passion, humility, and determination. There is a vision that Ashesi represents, and we must persist in realizing that dream.
Our name Ashesi, which means "Beginning", was inspired by the words of Goethe, a German playwright whose simple words helped me overcome my hesitation about undertaking such an ambitious project.
If there is anything you can do or dream you can,
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.
Ashesi, then, is about gathering the courage to think differently and to take risks. But it is also about creating an institution that constantly renews itself. There will be many new beginnings. As the first class of students at Ashesi, you embody the pioneering spirit that has been so instrumental in the creation of this university, and I sincerely believe that you have a very bright and exciting future ahead of you. But to make the most of this opportunity, you must work hard, and pay attention to the challenges facing us all.
There is one challenge in particular that I feel strongly about. Today, all societies on Earth face a modern menace: HIV/AIDS. There is no cure for this disease, and it threatens to cause untold misery and to unravel decades of advances made in many countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa. The HIV virus is perhaps the single biggest danger confronting sub-Saharan Africa today, and we must all help to fight this scourge.
I charge you to learn about this threat and to live responsibly, in order to protect yourselves and those around you. We will provide you with information and counseling about HIV/AIDS, and I hope you take this as seriously as we do. Furthermore, as you embark on the service-learning component of Ashesi's academic program, I encourage you to especially explore issues that pertain to health care and education. If we can positively affect the state of education and health care in Africa, we would have gone a long way towards accomplishing Ashesi's mission.
Here at Ashesi, we are engaged in the relentless pursuit of excellence. We seek to create a community where ideas flourish, and where teamwork is a way of life. As you embark on your academic career here, you will discover a whole new way of learning called the Liberal Arts. Ashesi's faculty will not just impart their knowledge to you, but rather, will teach you how to analyze information, to ask the right questions, to see new patterns in the data, and ultimately, to develop new insights and knowledge of your own.
You will experience an education in computer science and business administration that prepares you to compete in the global economy. You will have access to technology, at a level unmatched in Ghanaian higher education today. You will experience the pain of sometimes not quite grasping a new concept, and the thrill of discovering something new. You will learn to explore new ways of seeing the world around you. And your teachers will be your guides.
As founding members of this institution, we each bear a great responsibility - an obligation to live up to the mission of Ashesi, and a responsibility to stand up and be counted. Each one of you has a unique strength, and as we selected you to join us, we made a bet that you can, and will grow to become a leader in your community.
We are betting that you have what it takes to succeed here. We are betting that you have the humility and the curiosity necessary for learning. We are betting that as you walk these halls, you will develop strong friendships with your fellow students, faculty and staff of Ashesi University. We are betting that together, we will make a difference in Ghana and Africa.
I wish you all the best of successes as you engage this new and exciting phase of your lives. Again, akwaaba. Welcome.